Shortly after opening we got connected with a small company called Organics that delivered organic produce from a variety of Amish farms in Pennsylvania. Immediately it was obvious that the produce coming from Organics was exceptional…. the perfect baby greens, uniform fennel, young leeks, tiny turnips and beets…..
After Rupperts at other restaurants where I have consulted the first purveyor that I suggest is Organics which somewhere along the way changed its name to Path Valley. During our recent visit we learned that the founder got out of the business and created a farmers cooperative which is the way it is now operated.
Anyway, a few weeks ago it suddenly seemed pressing to go visit the farms that this produce we had been enjoying for years was coming from. I called the person who coordinates the orders for restaurants and asked if it would be possible to come up for a visit. She said that she would ask around when she went to visit the member farmers that day.
She arranged for us to visit three different farms. Martin-Lane and I drove about two and a half hours from DC and arrived in a picturesque valley between small mountains. There were horse drawn buggies sharing the road with cars.
The farms looked like very well maintained large kitchen gardens. Row after row of picture perfect varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs......This is possible since all members of the large families work cooperatively on the land. As anyone who has planted even the smallest garden knows it takes lots of consistent work to keep it in good condition. Especially some crops like baby lettuces need daily weeding and attention.
The land is used very intensively. I have read that organic farming practices are symbiotic with the Amish way of life which believes in nurturing and supporting the community as a whole. The Amish concept of community includes people, land and other living things. Excellent soil is maintained through hand tilling, composting and crop rotation. All the work is done by hand and with the occasional help of horses.
At each of the traditional Amish farms we met friendly families and saw impeccable fields and greenhouses. We shared ideas about growing things, insects and food. We saw the hand picking and sorting of lettuce that is the secret behind the truly spectacular greens that we have eaten over the years. The compete focus and immersion in the practice of farming was astounding, beautiful and inspirational.
The experience was other worldly and I am anxious to go back. Upon leaving one of the farms I asked if we could come up for a day and weed with them. They laughed at us and said we were welcome.